Your Career Q&A: Who’s Responsible for My Success?


By Martin Yate April 8, 2019

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.  

For the past five years, I've worked at a small company of about 190 team members.

Early this year, the vice president of HR asked if I would be interested in another HR position out of state at one of our other locations. The job represented a step up from my current role. They flew me and my family out to interview for the position and browse the area. After about three weeks of waiting for a decision, I was told that an external candidate was chosen. Turns out I didn't have the basic skills they were looking for in this new HR role. This opportunity showed me that my current manager did not prepare me for this next step.

During a follow-up phone call, the vice president of HR said she wanted me to create a plan and get properly trained on certain areas that I have no experience in. These areas are safety, workers' comp, investigations and terminations.

I admit I was rather comfortable with my position as an HR manager doing benefits and glorified HR coordinator duties for the last year.

I was told to set up weekly learning opportunities with my manager, and I have, but she always has an excuse as to why we cannot meet. I've asked her for training on certain things, but she has a horrible habit of procrastination. She is a lovely person and friend to me, but I feel like she has held me back from certain things. Now I'm wondering if I should move on to a different company or just stay and try to learn more? 

Many of us started our careers during a time when our employers told us "Do the best work you can in your job, be loyal, work hard, and we will take care of you." But those times have passed. While companies today do provide training on widely needed skills, they are not responsible for our professional development. That is now in our hands.

You are extremely fortunate that the vice president took the time and interest to tell you that you'd come up short in the interview and to explain the skills you need to develop. She even gave you specific elements to learn to give you better odds next time a position opens up. Essentially, she told you to take the initiative to develop these skills so that the company can get you that promotion.

It is important that you take this advice because these areas of safety, workers' comp, investigations and terminations are areas that require human judgment and interaction, making them skill sets less likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence and robots. And although you are happy working in benefits, that is an area that is going to be hard-hit as this next wave of technology is implemented.

I'd follow up with the vice president in an e-mail outlining your plan for each area and asking if you could get a few minutes of her time for further guidance.

When she has signed off on your initiatives, share the plan with your manager, asking that you be considered for any projects or meetings that will help you develop the skills identified by the vice president. This subtly says, "Your boss wants me to learn these things. She thinks these approaches will help. Will you help me help myself to grow?"

You say your present manager has held you back, but did you go to her with a plan or just say that you wanted to learn about these areas? It is up to you to develop a skill development plan for each of these skill sets. Use books, online training classes and videos, and check the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) training offerings and certifications as they apply to these areas.

Attend your local monthly SHRM chapter meetings so that you can meet the most committed and best-connected people in your area. Make a point to identify professionals with these skill sets and seek their advice and guidance on how to develop these skills. Then you can implement your self-paced development program in each area.

If your manager and vice president see that you have given these development areas thought and have come up with a plan of how you will do the work, I would be surprised if you didn't receive more support in reaching your goals. Just remember: It's your life, and what you make of it all depends on your initiative and effort.

Whether you have big issues or small concerns, please e-mail your queries to Martin at We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!


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